6 quick tips on budgeting

Man..it’s crazy to me that it’s 2020 and there are still folks running around rogue with their finances, thinking it’s not going to catch up with them. Several recent studies show that only about 40% of people are living that budget life. 😱

I have personally been living with a budget for over a decade, and I can promise you that this is one of, if not the biggest contributing factor to my current debt free and wealth building chapter of my life. I would definitely still be living beyond my means without a budget.

There is no better time then right now to put the money you make to work..and that money isn’t going to get to work without your help. So do me a favor, and if you are in the 60% of people who don’t currently budget, then make a pinky swear to yourself to start ASAP…after reading my quick tips of course. 😉

Tip 1-Live off of a zero budget. That’s a fancy way of saying that every single penny you have incoming should have a home for where it needs to go. The key to this is to assign your money jobs BEFORE you’re eyeballing that delivery menu on an empty stomach or you’re clicking on that BOGO sales ad that just landed in your inbox. So a few days before the month starts, you can sit down and map out your incoming vs outgoing. Mind that gap with some investing and savings. Which brings me to my next point.

Tip 2-Have a goal you are working towards. Whether it’s building your savings up, paying off debt, or investing in index funds to work towards financial freedom..you will be more successful minding the gap if you have short term and long term financial goals in place. Don’t let lack of planning cause you to live with a YOLO mentality..it’s true..you only live once..so get your shit together already. Nobody wants to keep hearing your “I’m broke and just barely getting by because they don’t pay me enough” talk, yet you’re driving a new car, eating out, constantly getting new clothes/AmazonPrime packages and texting your money problems on the latest IPhone. (sorry for being a little harsh..but seriously..someone had to say it)

Tip 3-Speaking of planning..plan for the unexpected. I’m talking about having enough in your savings to cover a bigger item, like a new transmission, your HVAC suddenly breaking down, your car insurance deductible from an accident, or taking your dog to the vet after they ate something crazy again. I don’t have time to get into details here on what’s considered unexpected, but if you have to ask if it’s an emergency..it’s not. Also, stuff that is recurring, like personal property taxes or Christmas gifts are NOT unexpected. You knew all damn year they were coming up..you should have separate money you’re putting back to plan for these annual recurring expenses.

Tip 4-Check for trends and opportunities. For example, if you are noticing a large chunk of your money is going towards gas, then it might be time to explore a more fuel efficient ride. If you are spending over $100 each time you hit up Target, then it might be time to keep your ass out the store. Luckily, there are other ways to shop now, including carryout or delivery, so that could possibly help keep you to the items you need vs want. Also, if you find yourself doing a great job, like going two weeks without eating out..then celebrate. Rewarding yourself (within reason) for good behavior is a great way to train yourself on new spending habits.

Tip 5-Give yourself a cash allowance. Let’s be honest..little things come up and having some cash on hand is a great way to take care of these little things. For example, if you slept like crap and really NEED a Starbucks latte..go get yourself one. Or the neighbor kid hits you up for buying some Girl Scout cookies, and nobody can say no to those Caramel Delights, nor should they say no. Much like crash diets, budgets don’t work if they are so strict that you feel deprived, week after week, month after month. This will make you more likely to fall off the budgeting bandwagon, so plan to allow a little flexibility sometimes.

Tip 6-Make it easy. Budgeting is a long term wealth building strategy..not a get rich quick scheme..remember that as you set things up. Keep it simple and keep evolving as you and your needs change. Setting up autopay on everything is about as easy as it gets for your fixed expenses. Also, for tracking, I used a paper check register up until last year..lol. BUT it was easy and worked for me. Now I have a word doc that lists out all my recurring expenses, along with an app called Spending that tracks all incoming/outgoing expenses. Don’t get so caught up in trying to figure out the details to a point where you don’t ever start. Any way you track is better than not tracking at all..so get to it already.

You know I am happy to share my tracker if interested and answer questions, so ask away.

Reflecting on 2019

There will be a whole 365 days in 2019 for us to have set goals, have taken action, worked hard, and to have crushed those goals. Year end is a great time to throw modesty out the door and recognize how great your year was and how awesome you are for all that was accomplished.   If you did the work, then I don’t care who you are, you deserve to celebrate, so go on..brush your shoulders off.

If you instead stayed on the couch all year again, and your biggest accomplishment was only gaining 10 lbs from all the junk you ate while binge watching all the Netflix original series..well then..might be good to reflect on that also.   Still playing the “victim of your situation” game and convincing yourself that you can’t change or grow because “insert your excuse here”.  Did that binge or pity party help you or hurt you?

Not trying to brag below I promise you..just trying to prove that you CAN do big things if you set big goals and are ready to take action and put in the work.   You can and should think differently about life and the pursuit of happiness..question things and don’t just do what everyone else is doing because it’s easy.  Also, I’m sharing some stuff that makes me feel vulnerable and gives a private look into some events in my life over the past year.

If you’re not ready to grow and celebrate success, then please stop reading this and head back to your latest Netflix binge. If you are ready, but not sure where to start, start by grabbing a pen and paper and write down everything you accomplished this year that makes you feel proud to tell others and makes you feel like you have grown as a person.  Then go share it with the world!!

See my list below:  My 2019 Accomplishments

  1. Started MySemiBasicLife.com blog and InstaGram account
  2. Grew organically from 150 followers to 1250 followers
  3. Helped teaching my youngest to read and my oldest to read and rehearse lines for a major part in a play
  4. Bought 1st rental property end of March 2019
  5. Bought 2nd rental property in August 2019
  6. Bought 3rd rental property in December 2019 (this one with a full cosmetic rehab)
  7. Was a guest on not one, but two podcasts, and submitted an idea to one of my favorite podcasts, and got to speak with the producer and provide input on a new series (can’t share any more info..sworn to secrecy..lol)
  8. Became debt free after selling our cars and paying off the remaining of our $165,000 in consumer debt. Nobody to impress now that I’ve changed my value system and if I don’t have the cash for it, then I’m not buying it.
  9. Completed a No Spend Year of no clothes, shoes, accessories, purses, makeup, haircuts/dye. Turns out I don’t give a shit what others think of me after all, and I don’t need makeup or new clothes to try and impress anyone.  “Letting myself go” in the eyes of society by not wearing makeup, rocking my grey hair, and not buying the latest clothing trends feels a lot more like getting comfortable in my own skin.  I’ve never felt prettier on the inside and out then I do right now.  I also learned to cut my own hair..not getting accepted into cosmetology school anytime soon..lol, but I can do it and it’s fun and free.
  10. Joined a real estate mastermind group and joined a local real estate investors group and have networked and made several great connections in the industry
  11. Attempted my first seller finance deal (didn’t work out but was a great learning experience and made some new connections in the process)
  12. Helped land a few really big accounts at work that required a lot of work and were out of my comfort zone
  13. Was matched with a little sister through Big Brothers/Big Sisters and continued to volunteer on the family selection committee for Habitat for Humanity
  14. Survived a lot of loss including losing a good friend to glioblastoma, losing my dog of 17 years, losing a terminal puppy we adopted, a dwarf hamster, and a pet rat. Lastly, there was an advanced stage breast cancer diagnosis for my mom with lots of biopsies, dr visits, chemo rounds, lots of soups/casseroles and will be leading in to surgery/radiation/hormone replacement in 2020.
  15. Started a gratitude journal that I write in every night.
  16. Started a daily morning meditation and manifesting the life I want practice.
  17. After my leg injury finally healed, was back up to running over 5 miles until I got bit by the neighbor’s dog..lol
  18. Stopped two nasty habits that I have battled on/off for years, smoking and drinking.  I still occasionally have a beer or drink, but not like I used to and have been smoke free since 6/1/19!!  I’m now focused on enjoying my current situation more and building a life I don’t need to escape from.  No judgment to my friends that are still doing these things..just doesn’t fit in my life any longer.
  19. I read 45 books this year!!
  20. Experienced 6 figure net worth growth through all of the above focus, hustle and sacrifice

Wow..I DID ALL OF THAT IN ONE YEAR??!!  I did notice that I didn’t have as much of a focus on my marriage or kids this past year, and plan to make sure I am placing more focus on those areas of my life in 2020.  Of all of those accomplishments, I am most proud of the self love and belief that I can do anything..because clearly I can after seeing my list!!  Also, with the belief in myself, I have noticed my risk tolerance is completely different.  I am ready to take on risks instead of turning away from them, because I know I will learn and grow from any mistakes, so bring them on!

Did you write a list of goals at the beginning of 2019 that you can compare your end of 2019 accomplishments to?  If not, no worries, because  I didn’t write any goals out at the beginning of the year either.  2020 marks the beginning of a new decade and new opportunities to start fresh for all of us.  Make it the year you stop saying “someday” and finally replace it with today.

Anyone else brave enough to share their year in review??!!

BRRRR it’s getting cold in here 🥶

I know I know..I’m sure everyone is thinking there must be some Toros in the atmosphere comes next?! Or maybe I’m the only old ass nerd still out here quoting Bring It On, which by the way, happens to be a classic cheerleading movie. 📣 🎥

Ok focus..it IS super cold and snowing hard here in Kansas City today, so it’s perfectly timed to talk about BRRRR, which is why we are all here (not from the cheerleaders movie or cold weather, but the real estate investing version). The strategy has been around for a minute, but the guys from BiggerPockets hold the clever naming rights I believe.

I am SO SO SO PUMPED UP to be getting after our very first house using the BRRRR method. So I wanted to explain this strategy very high level, and how it can be a great way for investors to grow a portfolio of buy and hold properties quickly, and with little of their own money tied up in the deal long term. Clearly I’m a newbie and can only speak to what I’ve researched/read/listened to, and what real life has brought my way so far, but thought I could at least introduce the concept to other newbies.

The premise is a way to use little of your own money while growing a buy and hold portfolio. In its simplest form, it stands for buy, rehab, rent, refinance, then repeat. We are still in the “buy” phase of ours, set to close this week, and excited to move into the rehab piece and plan to share the full details once we wrap up this project. We are going to just use some rough numbers here as an example.

Let’s say you find a distressed house or a homeowner who needs to get out fast of their current home. There’s lots of ways to find these deals, which I’m not going to cover in this post, but will save for another day. The distressed home or owner is an opportunity for you to help solve their problem and to buy their house from them. You would aim to acquire low, due to current condition of the home, taking into consideration all of the repair costs, and your ability to close fast. You would also need to make sure all of the numbers truly work for a BRRRR. But let’s say you can get this house for $30k and it needs an additional $30k in renovations. You use your own money, private money or hard money for the initial purchase and rehab (also lots of funding options I will also save for another post).

You know from looking at comps in the area (not houses for sale, but comparable houses that have already sold recently) that the ARV, or “after repair value” is around $100k. You have also checked average rents in the area, and know it will rent for $1,000 a month. So, after you rehab it and rent it out, then you go to a traditional bank for a cash out refinance on the property at $75k, and you pay yourself or your private money lender back and you now have none of your own money tied up in the deal and have acquired an asset with 25% instant equity. You have a tenant placed and are now cashflowing a few hundred bucks a month after your mortgage/expenses. You also walk away with a $7,500-10,000 profit (after closing/holding costs).

You keep repeating this process until you get to your buy and hold end game number, whatever that is for you. Work until the cashflow covers your monthly expenses to live, then you can sit back and enjoy your time freedom from your rental portfolio, or you never quit…completely up to you. 🤷‍♀️

I know I’ve simplified the process, but that was my intent. There are a TON of resources out there, including lots of investors using this strategy and sharing their successes/learnings, lots of podcasts, and even some books, so go do your research and dive deeper to fully understand. I would also love to hear input from others out there who are ice cold BRRRR experts. I just love this strategy and I hope sharing from my real estate investing toolkit will help you either get interested in getting into real estate, or help you to strengthen your current investing game.

No Spend Year Update

Brief recap of the one decision that I made back in January that has literally changed my life. It has created a snowball effect and has really helped me reset, basically like a “financial cleanse”. I made the decision to not buy certain things for the entire year of 2019, including clothes, shoes, accessories, purses, makeup and also gave up hair dye, products and haircuts.

I was doing REALLY REALLY good with it and staying strong and not missing anything and in fact finding myself in the process. (mainly by avoiding stores and unsubscribing to all the emails) Lately though, I have definitely been struggling to stay motivated and the consumeritis can sometimes feel contagious. 😷

I know I justified and bought sunglasses a few months back when mine broke, and if we’re being real honest, I could have worn one of the random cheapo pairs lying about my house, like the ones I got at a conference with built in bottle openers on the sides..lol. I also caught myself borderline begging my husband to tell me it’s ok to buy some used earbuds from a neighbors garage sale. 😂 Then there was this past weekend at Target where I was getting a few toiletries and a new nail polish jumped into my cart. 💅🏻

See below..they are both cute and will last me for years to come. 🤷‍♀️

It’s not about the $14 collective dollars that I’ve spent this year that if you want to get all technical..are totally on my banned items list. It’s more about me losing my way and my why in the process.

Life has been throwing a bit of a difficult season my way, and it’s easy to fall back into old ways and “things” to make me feel better. But I still ultimately know it’s only a temporary feeling and it’s a VERY slippery slope. The long term mindset shift is more important to me than the temporary gratification followed quickly by buyers remorse. So I’m committed to getting back on track, especially knowing that we are entering into the biggest spending season. Since it’s my first one on my new path, wondering if anyone has any tips on how to get through it without buying all the things. 🤔

Lifestyle Choices

This is going to be one of the hardest topics yet to cover at a very high level and also my first mention of FIRE in my writings (financial independence retire early). My goal is just to inform you of two choices and get you rethinking, especially if you feel like you don’t have choices and are stuck in your current financial position. I am by no means claiming to be an expert on the topic or to get into the HOW in this post. I have just dabbled with both lifestyles mentioned and I feel like there are not enough people (especially women) who are thinking about or providing information on the topic..so looks like you are stuck with me. 😜

The above picture is the best way I could summarize the concept of lifestyle creep. For now, as mentioned, this is just to introduce you to the topic, so I have a few stats and thought provoking questions to hopefully do so.

First..the stats tell an alarming story. I recently read in this USA Today article https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/34378157 that the average household is bringing in around $75,000 annually, and of that, they are spending 90% of it, which equates to $67,500 outgoing and only around $7,500 extra annually. (which the article states a lot of this is going towards interest payments on consumer debt). This breaks down to $5,625 in expenses each month and $625 extra. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room and helps paint a picture as to why people aren’t putting anything or very little towards saving, investing, emergency funds and retirement. 😳

Essentially pointing out that people are living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I don’t know that this was a surprise to any of us, but it may be a surprise that people are making the choice everyday with their actions and spending habits to live this way. Disclaimer that there are people living in poverty, so for the sake of my post, I am referring to the middle class mentioned above.

Now on to the questions. Feel free to answer in comments if you want to share, or just answer to yourself or as an internal conversation or with your significant other. Keep it real because denial is a great way to protect yourself from the truth right now, but long term in fact it just ends up hurting you more.

1) Are you living paycheck to paycheck like the scenario mentioned above?

2) Have you noticed that no matter what you do, you just can’t get ahead?

3) Do you receive regular raises or have you changed jobs to make additional money over the course of your career, yet you aren’t seeing a difference in your monthly budget after expenses because they always seem to match what’s coming in?

4) Do you ever pay attention to how much you spend on conveniences like pre-made food, someone to mow your lawn, someone to clean that big house, someone to wash that new car, someone to groom your dog, someone to do your hair/nails/makeup, etc because you are too busy working to do these things?

5) Have you ever wondered why things are like this for you and probably a lot of people you know, yet it’s still a taboo topic to discuss money, so everyone just keeps working harder and staying in the vicious cycle mentioned above?

6) What will happen if you change nothing and keep following this path?

Please reference the above picture as you are going through these questions to see if lifestyle creep has found a way to creep into your life. Remember..be honest.

Next, know that there is another option. As mentioned above, lifestyle creep is a choice and I’ve said this so many times on purpose. So many think they have no choice unless they make more money and this is far from the truth.

Lifestyle creep is a path that many in our society have walked and not challenged until recent years. Here are some questions to ask yourself and see if you’re one of those ready to challenge the traditional path and choose a different way.

1) What upsets you the most about always being broke and living paycheck to paycheck?

2) How has constantly feeling stressed from working so much and not having any money to show for it affected you?

3) What are your values and what are you spending your money on? Do they line up?

4) What are your passions and what do you dream about doing?

5) What could change if you have an open mind and put in the work, I mean really put in the work, to change your current financial path and mindset? Think of one quick and easy way you can change today.

6) What will happen if you start to live a lifestyle designed by you instead of others?

As mentioned, a lot of people have started looking at the above stats and questions, and are starting to make the decision to customize their lifestyle based on their own unique values, not what society tells them to value. Spoiler alert..it’s not through making more money as mentioned above..it has never been about that. It’s about a lifestyle of being content with only those things that bring you value. Luckily, it usually don’t cost anything at all, just the basics needed like food, shelter, experiences and none of the extra crap. 😊

Don’t get this lifestyle design twisted with a life of going without, because it’s actually the opposite of that. You have room for so much more when you let go of stupid shit.

Well..shocker..I have lots more to say but I’ve said enough for one day. What are your thoughts or questions on the two different paths mentioned above?

8 ways to eat out for less

Chipotle is my weakness and I love everything about it..except that it would cost my family around $750 a month if we ate it for dinner every night. 🤑

So we try to limit it to be a once a month treat, and try to find ways to make it even more affordable than it already is. Today, we got 6 servings of food for $16.72!! I also got enough napkins for both of our car glove boxes for the next few months..lol.

But while I was ordering today, I thought about some different ways that you can save money while eating out, no matter what you’re craving.

1. Don’t eat out at all..and if you’re like me and know that not eating out at all is a recipe for disaster, then limit it to once or twice a month and budget for it. (if I don’t eat out at all, then I will fall HARD off the wagon and go on a wildly expensive and unhealthy eating out binge)

2. Eat before hand. Yes you read that right..grab a snack first so you aren’t ordering more than you need or super sizing because you’re starving. Or if you’re eating out for dinner, make sure you had a good lunch that day.

3. Does everyone really need a meal or at minimum..their OWN meal? Likely not, so do like we do and make quesadillas at home for the kids and let them eat a little guacamole and chips as a side or you can share an order of food also.

4. Much like the previous tip, the portion sizes are ridiculous these days and WAY more than one person needs in one sitting. I ask for extra rice because it’s free, and I can make 3 meals out of one bowl.

5. Find some add ins or sides from home. We usually do chips from home and add some carrots and grapes for sides. Or if you’re ordering a pizza, skip the breadsticks and make a salad at home with it instead.

6. Look for promotions! Chipotle was doing BOGO for wearing a youth soccer jersey this weekend, so I dressed my soccer star in his and got a free bowl for it. I know Chick-Fil-A does similar dress like a cow promotions. This makes it fun also, because you can dress ridiculous and get some crazy second looks from people.

7. Join the rewards program. Don’t get me wrong..don’t use the rewards program as an excuse to eat out all the time, but if you can earn a free entree down the road for when you do plan to order, then take full advantage of that. If you’re like me and get excited and forget, Chipotle has a way to upload receipts afterwards. (as long as you do it within 30 days of ordering)

8. Do carry out. If you dine in, you are more likely to get pressured into adding on drinks, appetizers, and desserts that you don’t need. Also, you will need to add a minimum of a 20% tip, and tipping is also something you have to do for delivery. So avoid it and go grab your food and take it to the park or take it home to eat. Save the fancy sit down meals for extra special occasions, like an anniversary or birthday.

Those are some of my secrets to saving money while still getting your favorite fast food fix. What are some ways you save when eating out?!

Be a Goal Getter

I don’t care who you are..you need goals. Think of the old cliche saying that totally applies here..how are you supposed to get where you’re meant to go if you don’t know where that is? I firmly believe that if you take everything else out of the equation, mindset and goals are the biggest drivers of if you will or won’t do something. It also doesn’t matter if you’re on a different path than me and think I’m crazy for my recent FIRE movement 🔥, you still need goals and the right mindset for whatever your movement is, whether financial, personal, professional, relationships or health related.

Don’t be a flake and say something vague like “I want to pay off my debt” or “I want to lose some weight”. If that’s your goal, then you may as well replace it with “I don’t want to accomplish anything ever” and just get excited about carrying around those extra 15 lbs and all that consumer debt for the rest of your life. We wouldn’t have paid off all of our debt and bought our first rental by being flaky..period.

Instead, set yourself some SMART goals for whatever you are trying to achieve. Stop and brainstorm your life, past present and future state. I know everyone is “busy”, but sometimes you have to make it a priority to stop and reflect. Think about tomorrow, end of the year, two years from now, and maybe even think even farther, like 5-10 years from now. With us being halfway through 2019, it’s also a good time to look back on the past six months. What do you see? Do you like what you see? What will happen if you continue the way you are? Will you get where you want to go?

After you think about your path and your big picture, which will be different for all of us, think about 3-5 micro goals over the next 6 months that will help you get that much closer to your big goal. Get all high tech and write them on a post it and put them on your fridge…where you see them every day. 👀 (bonus points if they fall off all the time so you have to look at them even more when you pick them up off the floor)

As you can see, I have crossed out and updated a few of mine when my priorities shifted and opportunities came my way that altered my original timeline. Be ready to adjust as life comes at you, but even when things don’t go as planned, don’t ever give up. Remember to set your goals high enough to push you while making sure they are also attainable with some focus and hard work.

Don’t forget to stop and celebrate your successes as you hit your goals. Then make sure you continue to set new micro goals to get you that much closer to where you want to be! We need to think bigger and get some new goals since we’ve already paid off the student loans, currently looking for our second rental and also pretty sure we have increased our net worth by $25k just in the past few months. So I’m curious..what are some goals you have crushed and what are some that didn’t go so well?